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Short-term impact of sediment addition on plants and invertebrates in a southern California salt marsh

November 5, 2020

The implementation and monitoring of management strategies is integral to protect coastal marshes from increased inundation and submergence under sea-level rise. Sediment addition is one such strategy in which sediment is added to marshes to raise relative elevations, decrease tidal inundation, and enhance ecosystem processes. This study looked at the plant and invertebrate community responses over 12 months following a sediment addition project on a salt marsh located in an urbanized estuary in southern California, USA. This salt marsh is experiencing local subsidence, is sediment-limited from landscape modifications, has resident protected species, and is at-risk of submergence from sea-level rise. Abiotic measurements, invertebrate cores, and plant parameters were analyzed before and after sediment application in a before-after-control-impact (BACI) design. Immediately following the sediment application, plant cover and invertebrate abundance decreased significantly, with smothering of existing vegetation communities without regrowth, presumably creating resulting harsh abiotic conditions. At six months after the sediment application treatment, Salicornia bigelovii minimally colonized the sediment application area, and Spartina foliosa spread vegetatively from the edges of the marsh; however, at 12 months following sediment application overall plant recovery was still minimal. Community composition of infaunal invertebrates shifted from a dominance of marsh-associated groups like oligochaetes and polychaetes to more terrestrial and more mobile dispersers like insect larvae. In contrast to other studies, such as those with high organic deposition, that showed vegetation and invertebrate community recovery within one year of sediment application, our results indicated a much slower recovery following a sediment addition of 32 cm which resulted in a supratidal elevation with an average of 1.62 m (NAVD88) at our sampling locations. Our results indicate that the site did not recover after one year and that recovery may take longer which illustrates the importance of long-term monitoring to fully understand restoration trajectories and inform adaptive management. Testing and monitoring sea-level rise adaptation strategies like sediment addition for salt marshes is important to prevent the loss of important coastal ecosystems.

Publication Year 2020
Title Short-term impact of sediment addition on plants and invertebrates in a southern California salt marsh
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0240597
Authors Kaelin J McAtee, Karen M. Thorne, Christine R Whitcraft
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PLoS ONE
Index ID 70217299
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center